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A Week In Northern Virginia On A $1,095,000 Joint Income

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Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a small e-commerce business owner who makes a joint income of $1,095,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bomber jacket.
Occupation: Small business owner
Industry: E-commerce
Age: 34
Location: Northern VA
Salary: $1,095,000 joint (my husband and I each take an equal yearly salary of $547,500).
Net Worth: $1.98 million (investment portfolios: $880,000, high-yield savings accounts: $695,000, checking account: $50,000, foreign real estate: $350,000. For the most part, our finances are separate, but we share a checking account for rent, utilities and other fixed shared expenses. Other expenses involving food, travel, entertainment and other shared activities are split, although we don't always have a set ratio).
Debt: $0
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $12,758 (after taxes).
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $12,758 (after taxes).
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,000 (we're renting a townhouse, which serves as our residence, office and warehouse. With the business growing significantly over the past few years, it's occupied 80% of our space so we're looking into leasing an office/warehouse and moving into a single-family house to hopefully get some healthy separation between work and life, and allow the business to grow).
Utilities: ~$200
Phone: $129
Internet: $87
Water Subscription: $44
Netflix: $16.42
Spotify + Hulu: $9.99
Max: $15.99
Charitable Giving: $2,000
Savings: ~70% of income.
Investments: I've paused investments for now as we're saving for a house.

Annual Expenses
Tennis Channel: $109.99
Amazon Prime: $99
Costco Executive: $120
Amex Platinum: $695
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes. There was a lot of pressure, especially coming from my mom. Both my parents have master's degrees and they were hoping I would go beyond what they'd achieved and pursue a PhD. I wanted to start working and focus on my career so I opted against a PhD (and just got a master's degree), which I do feel a bit of guilt over since I feel like I let my parents down. My grandfather is a huge advocate for education for the family so he paid for all his grandkids' undergraduate and graduate schooling.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't really discuss finances in a broader sense but my dad gave my sister and me an allowance and taught us how to budget and save. My mom taught me to always pay off the full balance on my credit card. After my parents got a divorce, my mom reiterated the importance of having a prenup and separate finances with my potential partner to protect future inheritances and preempt financial conflict.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked part-time at a bookstore during the summer of my sophomore year of high school. I applied because my best friend wanted to do it and asked me to join her, so I did. I got an employee discount, which I was very excited about, and I spent my entire paycheck buying books.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Our parents actively shielded us from financial worries. They grew up poor in our home country so they didn't want us to feel like we were deprived of anything. They became financially comfortable prior to having my sister and me so we had a pretty privileged childhood and they got us everything we wanted. Then they got divorced and I discovered that my dad had accrued massive debt. He has since paid it off but this instilled within me a fear of debt, among other things.
Do you worry about money now?
Although I'm not worried about affording basic life necessities, as a small business owner I'm always cognizant of the ups and downs of the market and I try to make the most of this business while it's thriving — sometimes at the expense of my personal wellbeing. My upbringing bred within me a dangerously carefree spending mentality that lingered into my 20s. Although I didn't incur debt, I had basically no savings. It still takes effort for me to temper my spending habits in my 30s. My husband and I are also looking to purchase our first home and though we've been saving for it, the housing market in our area remains elevated. I'm a bit worried as time keeps slipping by and homeownership seems increasingly overwhelming financially.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I didn't become financially responsible for myself until I turned 28, when I was able to earn a living wage about a year after starting my small business. But to be completely candid (and it's hard to admit this even anonymously), it's difficult for me to establish true financial independence from my mom. Although I make more than enough money to be financially responsible for myself, she still routinely offers to supplement my income and checks in on my finances to make sure I'm comfortable. Despite knowledge of my income, she gifts me money in sums that are not insignificant, and she takes it very personally when I try to turn them down. I'm appreciative of her generosity but I'm also unable to honestly say I'm fully financially independent at the ripe age of 34. I do try to put away most of the money I make and the monetary gifts, so I do have some financial safety net in case anything goes wrong, but I also recognize that my mom is a big safety net for me.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received passive income from my mom, starting from grad school until around the age of 28. She would send me $5,000 a month to cover rent and other expenses while I pursued my master's degree and started my business. Additionally, over the past few years I have received ~$370,000 from my mom and ~$10,000 from my dad as gifts. My grandmother also gifted my sister and me a house in our home country.

Day One

1 p.m. — I wake up slowly after seven hours of sleep. It's embarrassing — my schedule is totally weird, I know — but a rigid schedule is one of the things I'm happy and truly grateful to do away with now that I'm no longer working a 9-to-5. I check my personal and business Instagram, then check my personal email and messages on my phone.
1:30 p.m. — I go downstairs and my husband, J., is playing the latest Zelda game. He immediately pauses the game and strolls into the kitchen to make me a fresh latte with the espresso machine I gifted him for Christmas. He's been into those ASMR coffee-making videos on YouTube and adopted it as his newest hobby. He draws a cute little heart on the foam for me, as he does every morning. I thank him and take a long sip. He turns off the TV and gets to work packing our products.
1:45 p.m. — I schedule the social media posts for our business for the day. Then I turn on my work computer and answer emails. I check our online store to make sure everything is running smoothly and then I check our inventory, before joining J. to help with packing.
4 p.m. — I go into our home studio to take photos and videos of our new products before the beautiful sunlight goes away. Ever since I started doing this, I get unreasonably excited whenever I come across good natural lighting. Then I come back down and continue packing with J.
6:40 p.m. — While I work, J. prepares our meal. Today he's making pan-seared salmon with lemon butter sauce on a bed of cauliflower rice. I'm a terrible cook and I feel really lucky that J. loves cooking and is excellent at it.
8 p.m. — J. gets ready for bed. He gets up at 6 a.m. to play basketball so our schedules don't completely align for half the week but that's fine for us. I massage him with our Theragun to recover his muscles and give him a relaxing massage to help him fall asleep. I tuck him in when I realize he's fast asleep.
8:25 p.m. — I do some online window-shopping with an episode of Schitt's Creek playing in the background. I check Zara for new arrivals and see a cropped button-down shirt I like. I bookmark the listing in my “shopping” folder, which I keep to avoid impulse purchases. I'll come back to it if I'm still thinking about it over the next week or so. I check another item I bookmarked a week ago — a cute cotton poplin miniskirt from J.Crew — to check if it's gone on sale. It hasn't so I'm holding off.
10:15 p.m. — I answer more customer emails and edit the photos and videos I took earlier today.
2:20 a.m. — I do some reading on my Kindle. I'm currently rotating between Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Burn Rate. I opt for the latter tonight and continue reading until I get sleepy.
4 a.m. — I lay down my old cracked yoga mat on what little surface area I can find between boxes of business supplies in our living space. I do some stretching before getting ready for bed. I know I should get a new yoga mat but it'll have to wait. I just want to sleep at this point.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

12 p.m. — The sound of the neighbor's kid yelling wakes me up. I check the time on my phone. Looks like I got a full eight hours last night, yay! I check the usual on my phone before getting ready for the day.
1:25 p.m. — J. and I do our semi-monthly Costco run to replenish groceries (fresh veggies and produce, Chilean sea bass, salmon, cauli rice and macadamia nuts, among other things) and also purchase some supplies for the business. We drop off some donations in the drop box nearby. Then we stop by Wegmans to get lettuce, almond milk, sparkling water and baking ingredients as I plan on making a coconut cake for J.'s dad for his belated birthday dinner on Wednesday. J. pays for Costco ($173.96); I pay for Wegmans. $66.72
3:30 p.m. — We arrive back home and continue working. We talk about our requirements and budget for our office/warehouse and the number of staff we'll be employing. There's excitement in the air — for our business to grow and for our work-life balance to be restored.
6:25 p.m. — J. makes us miso-glazed Chilean sea bass with a side of black pepper-roasted brussels sprouts. I honestly could have these all day. We get back to work after the meal.
10:40 p.m. — J. goes to bed; I give him a massage and tuck him in.
12 a.m. — I get started on the coconut cake for J.'s dad. I play ABBA in the background and hum along as I bake. Baking has always been therapeutic for me so I take the time to enjoy this.
2:20 a.m. — I stick the finished cake in the fridge. I then turn on my work computer and reply to emails. Then I check my personal Instagram and chat with a few childhood friends from back home. We're all busy pursuing different things in our lives and since I immigrated to the US to pursue my education and career, I'm halfway across the world. It's hard for us to see each other in person but we still take the time to check in on each other.
3:40 a.m. — I do my nightly yoga and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $66.72

Day Three

12:30 p.m. — I wake up and check my personal Instagram. One of the fashion influencers I follow, Jenn Garcia, dropped her summer clothing collection today. I've been eyeing the black bomber jacket I saw in her collection preview a couple of weeks ago. There's a 15% off promo code that's only good for today, but I hold off and bookmark the item before getting out of bed.
1 p.m. — J. is already hard at work packing products downstairs. As he makes me coffee, I answer emails and do more editing on the computer before helping J. pack for the rest of the evening.
7:30 p.m. — We have dinner. J. makes us eggplant lasagna, then we get back to work.
10 p.m. — I process all the orders for the week and print out shipping labels.
12:50 a.m. — I finally have time to revisit the bomber jacket I bookmarked earlier. I thought it was too late to use the launch day promo code as it's past midnight but turns out it's still 9:50 in California, where they're based. I browse the new collection to see if I can spend enough to get free shipping. I see a few pieces that I like but I can't imagine styling them into more than a few outfits so I end up pulling the trigger on just the bomber jacket. $77.54
2 a.m. — We get ready for bed. I'm tired so it doesn't take long for me to fall asleep.
Daily Total: $77.54

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up and check the time, hoping it's still early. No such luck. We planned to wake up earlier today so that we'd have time to finish filling orders before J.'s dad's belated birthday dinner today. I fight the urge to go back to sleep and gently poke J.'s arm. He groans and takes off his sleep mask. A long day awaits us.
9:30 a.m. — J. makes coffee while I answer emails. We then go downstairs to fulfill orders.
1 p.m. — J. harvests some lettuce from his little garden and adds some of the arugula and kale we got from Wegmans to make us a mixed salad along with egg white quiche. After eating, it's back to work.
6:30 p.m. — We meet J.'s parents for his dad's birthday dinner at a Japanese restaurant that we've been meaning to try out. The restaurant was able to serve us the coconut cake I brought over (I called to check beforehand when we made the reservation). The total bill including tip is $211.91, J. pays.
8:40 p.m. — J.'s dad wants to grab some Chinese broccoli so we join them at the local Asian grocer. J. and I decide to get some groceries too: mushrooms, limes and condiments. $25.70
10 p.m. — Back home. J. and I take out the trash and I answer more emails. I also prep a Uniqlo return — I ordered a few T-shirts last week and I don't love the color of one of them in person. I try not to keep anything I don't absolutely 100% love. I bring the return package to the garage so USPS can pick it up when they come by tomorrow.
10:50 p.m. — I video chat with my dad; it's late morning in my home country, where he is. I haven't talked to him in a couple of weeks and I miss him. He apologizes for not calling me and admits that he has been suffering from pretty intense stomachaches. He has a colonoscopy scheduled in a couple of days. I'm so worried about him but I try my best to be positive for him. I ask him to keep me posted. I wish I could just hop on a plane and go see him now but the business can't go on without me.
12 a.m. — I plan and schedule my work-related tasks for the next week. Since there are just the two of us managing our business, there are a lot of tasks to get done and things can easily fall through the cracks if we're not on top of them. While J. is great at intuiting his side of the work, I function best with checklists and schedules. I also do some demand planning for the upcoming drop and get started on ideas for our weekly new releases.
2 a.m. — I do some stretching on the old yoga mat. Again, I remind myself to look at new yoga mats. Again, I defer the purchase. J. and I then get ready for bed together.
Daily Total: $25.70

Day Five

11:50 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of a USPS truck backing into our garage. The first of three trucks is here to pick up the weekly orders. J. relays a third of the outgoing shipments to our postman, filling the truck up completely. Two other trucks will come by in the afternoon to accept the rest of the packages. I couldn't get much sleep last night as I was worried about my dad so I feel really groggy.
2:15 p.m. — We watch a tennis match on TV while I answer customer emails and sip on some coffee, and J. hands off the shipments to the other USPS trucks. The player we're rooting for wins the match, yay!
3:30 p.m. — I do more editing on the computer and schedule a few videos for our social media. Then I design labels for some of our new products launching two weeks from now. I still haven't come up with all the products in the new collection yet. I'm having a bit of a creative block this week, it seems. I browse Pinterest for inspiration and get started on some ideas, although I'm not completely happy with them. I write them down and make plans to polish them up later.
6:25 p.m. — I do laundry while J. prepares our meal: kelp noodles with stir-fried basil turkey, tofu and broccoli. It's delicious!
8 p.m. — I call my mom. It's a bit early on the other side of the world so she sounds a bit groggy. She asks how I am but I don't want to tell her that I've been concerned about my dad's health. Ever since my dad remarried a few years ago, she never wants to hear about him, so I just tell her I'm okay. As always, she asks how the business is doing. As always, I assure her it's fine.
9:40 p.m. — J. and I watch an episode of Black Mirror while sharing some roasted seaweed. There are only two episodes left in the latest season.
10:30 p.m. — J. gets ready for bed. I give him the usual massage before I go downstairs to work on some prototypes for the new collection. I play some '90s music from my home country in the background. These songs are usually comforting to me but tonight it just makes me homesick.
1:15 a.m. — I do some yoga, then get ready for bed. I decide to sleep a bit earlier than I usually do to compensate for the bad sleep I got last night. Plus, I'm really tired. Before falling asleep, I text my dad asking him how he's feeling today; he replies with a funny sticker that's slightly reassuring.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

12:10 p.m. — I wake up, get ready for the day and join J. downstairs. We watch another tennis match while I answer emails and drink my coffee. Our favorite player withdraws from the match due to an injury.
2:30 p.m. — I film more content for our social media. It's been raining all day and the lighting situation is far from ideal but my experience with social media has taught me that consistency is key to maintaining growth, so I push through.
4:10 p.m. — We eat the leftover kelp noodle stir-fry and share a side salad. Then J. enjoys a sesame cookie while I have a square of dark chocolate.
5 p.m. — I edit more videos and schedule today's and tomorrow's social media posts. Then I update the website and list the new products for tomorrow's drop.
6:15 p.m. — J. and I prepare our products for tomorrow's drop, which we'll spend the next five days packing, fulfilling and shipping after the orders roll in. I play some relaxing piano music and we converse while we work.
10:50 p.m. — J. watches YouTube videos to unwind while I peruse Zillow for new home listings. J. asks if there's anything interesting but there's not much apart from a couple of price cuts on homes that we bookmarked but didn't really love.
1 a.m. — J. gets ready for bed. I give him a massage and go back downstairs to do some yoga.
2:10 a.m. — I do my nails. They chipped as I was opening supply boxes while working and since I still have videos to film, I try to make sure they look professional. Plus, I'm meeting up with some of my friends tomorrow so it won't hurt to have presentable nails. I wait for my nails to dry before getting ready for bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

11 a.m. — I wake up a bit earlier than usual to make sure the website is all set for today's drop. Then I get ready to meet my friends. I check the weather — it looks like there's a 40% chance of a thunderstorm later this afternoon so I fold a Lululemon hooded windbreaker into my ludicrously capacious Goyard tote in case I need it. I hurry downstairs and J. reminds me to bring an umbrella. I toss one into my tote and kiss him goodbye. As I drive our car out of the garage, I'm happy to see it's still nice and sunny out.
1 p.m. — Traffic is as congested as to be expected on a summer weekend. Street parking is always a gamble, especially on Saturdays, so I try to spare myself the frustration and park at a garage; it still takes me about 15 minutes to find a spot. I make it just in time to the restaurant. I order a burrata salad and a coffee. $25.41
1:50 p.m. — We shop around for a bit. I try on a top at Alo but decide to wait until it goes on sale. The sunlight fades away as dark clouds fill up the sky — it looks like a storm is fast approaching. We say goodbye and I make a quick pit stop at J.Crew to try on the skirt I bookmarked earlier. I like it in person and I now know what size to order when it goes on sale online. I remember J. saying we were low on coffee beans so I stop by at a coffee shop and grab a tin of medium roast coffee beans ($17.27). I walk to the garage, pay for parking ($27) and head back home. $44.27
4:30 p.m. — I arrive home and change into loungewear. J. is taking a nap in the bedroom. I film and edit product videos while it starts to rain outside. I try to upload a video on YouTube and it fails. I realize I've used up 510 of the 512 GB storage on my phone and spend 20 minutes deleting about half of my 3,483 videos.
6:10 p.m. — I monitor today's sales and answer customer emails. I've been doing this for almost six years now and I still get nervous on the day of our weekly drops, hoping that people like our new stuff, that everything functions seamlessly and that my demand planning was accurate and I haven't over- or under-stocked a product. As per usual, everything seems to be fine.
7 p.m. — J. and I start packing products for the drop.
8:20 p.m. — J. makes us a chopped garden salad with avocado, almonds and blackened chicken, tossed with extra virgin olive oil and truffle salt. We snack on cherries afterward. J. suggests we go out somewhere tomorrow since the weather will be nice and sunny.
9:25 p.m. — I call my dad, anxious about his colonoscopy results. Turns out they didn't find anything and he tells me he's feeling better now that he's trying to eat healthier. A massive weight lifts off my shoulders. “Health is wealth,” he reminds me, and I concur.
10:45 p.m. — J. gets ready for bed. I give him a massage then I do some reading on my Kindle.
3 a.m. — I do yoga then get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $69.68
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